The Amazing Way the Fellowship Theme Grows Part 2: Building the Fellowship
(In The Lord of the Rings’ soundtrack, composer Howard Shore uses specific pieces of theme music to represent certain places, characters, and things– the Rohan theme, The One Ring’s theme, the Gondor theme, etc. What’s really cool though is how– as Howard Shore explains in his book on the soundtrack
my main source, which you can find by googling “the LOTR annotated score” –these leitmotifs grow alongside the things they represent.
As a kingdom changes, its theme music subtly changes, too. As the Hobbits grow, the Shire theme grows with them.)
This is Part Two (part one found here) of a series where I talk about how the theme music that represents the Fellowship grows over the course of the films, reflecting the way the Fellowship itself grows.
In Part One, I talked about how the composer Howard Shore introduces this theme (the music you hear in the beginning of The Bridge of Khazad-Dum soundtrack here) the way he introduces most of his epic themes….While everyone remembers the bombastic versions that play during the battles, it’s first heard playing softly in the background of humble lil character moments. Shore said he wanted to show that the Fellowship’s theme music, like the Fellowship itself, wasn’t born in epic battles but in small moments of friendship.
This part will cover how the Fellowship’s theme grows from the “baby” versions you hear in the Shire to the huge Iconic™ versions you hear in Moria, growing as the Fellowship itself grows.
(all posts in this series are tagged #fellowship theme, and all my soundtrack-related posts are tagged #lotrsoundtrackfacts. I will t
ry to post a new part of this series every Sunday)
The first time we hear the Fellowship theme outside of the Shire is when Gandalf is riding to Isengard (beginning of this clip)
Frodo and Sam set out on their journey, as I mentioned in my last post, with a version of the Fellowship theme that sounds cute n cozy. (”We’re going on an adventure, just like Bilbo!”)
But Gandalf sets out on his journey with what Shore calls grim “bits” and “fragments” of the same theme. Gandalf’s variation is darker because, unlike the hobbits, he understands what might lie ahead…..
We hear the Fellowship theme again as Aragorn leads the hobbits out of Bree at (3:30) of this clip.
OST: Not on the OST
The Fellowship has grown, so its leitmotif has grown. As Howard Shore described it:
“The Fellowship theme is a little fuller now… it’s not completely assembled, but it’s getting closer because now Strider has joined them. The orchestration is fuller—you hear a little more of the brass. In earlier sections with Frodo and Sam you heard one French horn playing. Now there are three.”
Then you hear “arduous” snippets of it as the ragtag Hobbits-plus-Strider group struggles through the Midgewater Marshes (not in OST, but in CR: The Nazgul).…..
And when Aragorn defends Frodo on Weathertop, according to Shore in the FOTR commentary, “the music is primarily based around the Ringwraith theme but [has] elements of Fellowship theme.” This is the first time we hear the Fellowship theme in a battle setting but it’s only in “fragments” and “elements,” muddled up with the Ringwraith-leitmotif and bits of Aragorn’s theme music (YES Aragorn has his own theme music it took me SO LONG to notice that)….
OST: not in OST
CR: The Caverns of Isengard
By now you’ve probably noticed the pattern of the pre-Rivendell theme: it gets progressively stronger but it’s never “completely assembled”…which makes sense. We never hear the fully formed Fellowship theme until we see the fully formed Fellowship.
As Howard Shore points out, it’s only after Elrond proclaims the nine companions “Shall be the Fellowship of the Ring” that you hear the theme music in its full orchestration for the first time.
And from that moment until Moria, we don’t hear any more of those weak or fragmented versions of theme. Only buff versions.
We hear a soft (but still “full”) version as the Fellowship sets out from Rivendell together (in the beginning of the next clip.) This variation is not on the OST, but appears in the CR track Gilraen’s Memorial.….
After the journey out of Rivendell begins with some variations on the Shire theme, we hear (at about 1:50) a heroic slow version as the Fellowship journeys IN HEROIC SLOW MOTION….
This all builds up to the biggest and (maybe even the most Iconic) variations of the theme in FOTR….the ones that play in Moria.
We hear it twice in the Mines: as the Fellowship races toward the Bridge of Khazad-Dum (clip below) and after the Aragorn and Frodo make it over that gap in the stairs (and we watch the stairwell dramatically crumble into the Abyss)
Moria is the first (and only!) time all nine members of the Fellowship are called into action together. These two Moria moments are also the first (and only!) times in FOTR where we hear the full version of the theme playing over action scenes.
If the other versions of the Fellowship theme were bombastic but slow and peaceful,, then these variations are like…if the concept of CAPS LOCK and exclamation points!!!! were music!!!! It gets you pumped, is what I’m saying, but you already knew that. My point is: We’re not even through the first film and the Fellowship theme has already changed a ton from the gentle “baby” versions we heard in the Shire.
If you were to listen to all the appearances of the Fellowship’s theme music in order…you would hear it begin as a cozy cute theme from the Shire, gain more instruments as the Fellowship gains more members, form as the Fellowship forms, and get more and more powerful as the Fellowship comes together, all of this building up to glorious invincible-sounding crescendos in Moria.
What could possibly go wrong….?
(Part three will come next Sunday. To request a soundtrack for me to write about, reblog this linked post.)